I really enjoyed reading this intereview with Jo Robinson, author of Eating on the Wild Side, about phytonutrients — or polyphenols. It contains some fascinating facts and myth-busters.
In her book, Robinson argues that today’s produce contains far fewer nutrients than the foods of our ancestors — funny, because just yesterday my sister and I were pondering the question of whether a visitor from the ancient past would recognize the vegetables and fruits we eat today either by sight or by taste!
But I digress. Robinson’s practical advice describes how to navigate today’s grocery stores and farmer’s markets to find the most densely nutritious food. For example, she advocates choosing leafy lettuces over head lettuces: “When a lettuce variety forms a head, the leaves inside don’t have to produce phytonutrients to protect themselves from UV light.” Makes sense, and better still, “if you go to these leafy ones—especially ones that contain some red color—some of them are equivalent to what you’d find foraging.”
She busts the myth that organic automatically means more nutritious, citing studies that suggest that the fertilizers used in conventional farming actually increase the phytonutrient content of some foods; and describes how quickly some of our most nutrient-rich vegetables — kale, broccoli, leaf lettuce and spinach, for example — lose much of their value through respiration by the time they get to the supermarket shelf. Guess I better start get going on those kale chips while there’s still time!
Speaking of thyme (ahem), Robinson says it, along with oregano are two of the most nutritious herbs — and that parsley pesto is apparently even better for you than basil pesto! (Extra bonus: it’s cheaper too!)
Finally, waiting 10 minutes after you chop your garlic before adding it to a recipe activates the chemical compound allicin, which is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-cancer. I’ve known this fact for years, yet conveniently “forget” when I’m actually in the kitchen.